Shared Journey

Your Leadership: You are part of your journey but, we travel together


Know thyself. And knowing himself, he may learn to use
advances of knowledge to benefit, rather than destroy, the human species.
Simon and Newell (1958:8)

Leadership is a journey, not a destination.
It is a marathon, not a sprint.
It is a process, not an outcome.

John Donahoe, president of eBay
cited in George (2007:3)

The first step is to understand oneself before you can understand other people. Individual reflection is an important precondition for organisational or network reflection. DeRue and Ashford argue:

“You learn how to go forward by looking backward” (DeRue and Ashford, 2010: 26).



Exploring the Journey:  The Road to Empowerment

road-to-empowermentThe collective leadership framework places behaviours as a high level outcome of shared values. Part of the problem is that the focus of traditional leadership theories has been more about the individual than the collective.  The journey starts with the individual but, if most (individual) leaders are indeed fundamentally flawed in some vital respects, is this because they are driven by intrinsic values and motivation?   If so, the role of collective leadership is to mitigate those flaws by focusing on shared values.  Based on a review of literature and my experience and research over many more years than I care to remember, a range of case studies are explored against a framework for leadership through 360° intelligent networks, knowledge and skills assisted by a moral and value-laden leadership compass.

The selfless leader considers an action learning approach – supported by applied leadership challenges – which aligns shared and distributed leadership to the cascaded goals and objectives in a way that secures mutual benefit for the individual, teams, organizations and, potentially, entire communities. A key theme throughout this proposal is that ‘leadership both begins and ends with people’.  So, if we are innately selfish, how do we resolve this difficulty?  Let us begin that journey!

Action learning is certainly increasing in popularity as a pedagogical method and is viewed quite widely as an excellent means of experiential learning between groups of individuals facing organisational problems.  An Applied Leadership Challenge (ALC) seeks to take this one stage further and apply the principles of action learning throughout the organisation and its networks and directly aligning the learning to the impact for the organisation and its networks in addition to that of the individual learner.

Applied Leadership Challenge

The senior leaders of an organisation or partnership would agree to collaborate in the development of a collective vision with a view to delivering outcomes that are in the public interest, based on the presenting problem profile and its integrity.  The pedagogical approach would take this further through an initial needs assessment taking due account of wider views and expertise on the wicked problems that organisations and networks face and the skills and behaviours that are required. This could be undertaken through a series of Applied Leadership Challenge Sets (ALCS) also grounded on the principles of action learning sets.  This is illustrated to the left.


The Selfless Leader discusses the Compass Values (Collective Vison; Outcome Focus; Multi Level Leadership; Partnership Working; Action Oriented and Adaptive Leadership; Systems and Structures and Skills and Behaviours, using the ‘COMPASS’ acronym) in some detail as well as the concept of leading responses to ‘wicked problems’.

A ‘puzzle’ can be equated with a ‘tame’ problem whereas a wicked problem is (usually) unsolvable.  A problem profile concerns the framing of the problem.  If the problem is framed wrongly then this is likely to lead to the wrong solution being chosen.  A key aim of the problem profile is thus to frame the challenge that the organisation or its networks are facing and, if it is framed correctly, then there is less opportunity for individual leaders to re-frame it. It is only through shared leadership that collective responses can be suggested in resolving ‘wicked’ problems.

The aim is to develop a multi level approach to problem solving and action learning through a cascaded approach of action learning and applied leadership challenges, supported by a feedback loop.

The Selfless Leader